TOPEKA — Abortion opponents in Kansas passed up an opportunity Tuesday to debate new restrictions on providers, keeping legislation focused on technical changes in anti-abortion laws as they pushed it out of a state House committee.
The Federal and State Affairs Committee took seven minutes to debate and approve the measure, which addresses issues raised in state and federal lawsuits filed by abortion providers last year. The committee's voice vote sends the measure to the entire House for debate.
The bill was technical enough that Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, which performs abortions at its Overland Park clinic, remained neutral.
The bill revises a requirement that the home pages of abortion providers' websites link to a state health department site with information about pregnancy and fetal development. Providers would no longer be required to include a statement with the link saying that state's information is accurate and objective — a rule on hold because of state and federal lawsuits arguing that it violates providers' free speech rights.
The measure also rewrites language in various provisions of state law dealing with medical emergencies in which abortion restrictions are waived. Providers argued in a state lawsuit that language approved last year would make it virtually impossible for women to obtain abortions in medical emergencies. Abortion opponents disputed their arguments but acknowledged the wording was flawed.
Kansas has enacted multiple new restrictions on abortion and providers since Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, a strong abortion opponent, took office in January 2011.
"There's no need to bulk this up or add anything to it," said House committee Chairman Steve Brunk, a Wichita Republican who also opposes abortion.
Planned Parenthood lobbyist Elise Higgins said she'd expected the committee's discussion to be "pretty calm" but said abortion-rights supporters may want a broader debate when the House takes the measure up.